July 15, an Assault on Turkey’s Democracy

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    The National Assembly building bombed by FETO
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    Shocking,scandalous, inconceivable, or call it monstrous but there isn’t a right adjective for me to describe the events of July 15 in Turkey. Still, there is a positive lesson to draw from the putsch by a disgruntled faction of the Turkish army backed by the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO); a country of diverse backgrounds is more than ever united behind its President Recip Tayyip Edorgan.

    I was in Turkey just six weeks before the failed coup but it never occurred to me that such an unconscionable act would be perpetrated on its people by the same people they paid to protect their lives and properties. I was shock to watch the scenes on television from the fallout of the July 15 rebellion that did not only aimed to overthrow a president who was democratically elected by 52% of the population but Edorgan was lucky to have escaped an assassination attempt.

    july-15-1Tens of thousands of people were arrested, charged or dismissed from every sector of Turkey’s public institutions. We were all made to believe by the Western media propaganda that this was a crackdown by a “dictator” to eliminate his perceived enemies but never were we told about the scandalous operations of a terrorist group that had hidden its true identity and infiltrated critical state institutions for more than four decades. This failed coup was a victory for the Turkish people for it was the people from all walks of life and the various political divide that thwarted the attempt, and it should be celebrated annually as a day of democracy.

    The revolt was attempted with armed military equipment such as fighter jets, tanks and helicopters. Tanks ploughed over the citizens on the streets protecting the coup and these clandestine terrorists bombed the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly, police and public buildings all in the name of a so-called coup. Citizens were crushed by life ammunition and in the end 240 were martyred and another 2,500 wounded but the people who came out on the streets unarmed refused to budge and in the end their resistance forced the soldiers to surrender.

    The coup plotters are well-known Gulenists in Turkey and were on the verge of been dismissed from service in the next Supreme Military Council and as a result, rushed the operation as their last opportunity to overthrow the government before they lose their control over the army. This group, known widely as the Hizmet (service) movement, emerged in the 1970s and they disguised themselves as a movement providing educational services and its members, governed by a strong infrastructure, introduce themselves abroad as volunteers of education and peace.

    “Three years ago, people thought he [Fetullah Gulen] was a good person because he was building a lot of schools around the world. But then, they [his people] began to make some demands by demanding that certain people be appointed to positions that was when people began to realise that they had some other motives,” Mehmet Akarca, the senior adviser to the Turkish prime minister and director general of Turkey’s Directorate of Press and Information said.

    “He pretended to be interested in education and has a lot of influence in the army and the police, the judiciary and these people are a danger to your countries. The West does not like Turkish growth because it is not to their advantage.”

    As well as bombing key state institutions, the deserters closed traffic at Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge that connects Europe and Asia and entered the Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) building with the excuse that they were there to thwart a non-existent terror attack. TRT employs more than 7,000 people within and outside of Turkey and the coupists later rounded and handcuffed those on duty and forced some to read a prepared statement that they had taken over the country.

    But as the statement was read over television, Turk Satellite that provides signal for TRT disconnected the public broadcaster as another attempt to thwart the coup. President Edorgan used Facetime, an iPhone video chat feature to address the country through a private television station that had a tense relation with him until the coup, CNN Turk. He spoke with Hande Firat, the head of Ankara Bureau for CNN Turk and called on his people to take to the streets. “Go to the streets and give them their answer,” Erdogan urged as the reporter held up her phone to the network’s camera.

    Soon, the streets of both Ankara and Istanbul turned out to be a sea of people. “The people stormed the TRT building and unarmed the soldiers,” Fatih Sahingoz, news coordinator for TRT told the African press delegation that was in Turkey last week. In the end, more than 300 people with links to FETO who infiltrated the state broadcaster were fired and are awaiting trial.

    The coupists later stormed the CNN Turk headquarters in Istanbul through a helicopter and ordered the private broadcaster to shut down transmission. “I had to tell them a little lie that all the images they were seeing was just within the complex because we were no longer on air,” Aliser Delek, the newsroom editor of CNN Turk said.

    In reality, the broadcaster was actually on air and the entire hullabaloo was been viewed by people that tuned into the station at the time. The seven-minute video, that was played to us saw the chief executive officer of the broadcaster urging his employees to go home and vowed he would be the last person to leave the building. The staff refused to go and few minutes later, people stormed the building and forced the soldiers to surrender.

    Forget about the fact that Turkey had witnessed a coup every 10 years in its modern history, this one was equally well orchestrated yet there is something unique about it as President Edorgan is the only leader to have survived a coup. Gulen, the leader of the cult, has vehemently refuted claims that he masterminded the coup but messages shared by the coupists through messaging app WahtsApp, shown to the African press delegation, intimated that he was complicit in the operation.

    In August, an anti-coup protest was held in Istanbul and gathered 3 million people from all political backgrounds, signaling another historic and unprecedented milestone for Turkish democracy. “In 2002, Edorgan came to power in the face of economic stress. The economy has now improved and Turkey paid the IMF debt and was urged to take another $5billion loan. Construction projects started afterwards and our human rights and religious freedom also improved. Turkey is today ranked second behind China in terms of growth and construction rate,” Mehmet Akarca added.

    “Some countries don’t want our country and your countries [African countries] to be developed; they have exploited our countries. PKK caused 40,000 deaths in Turkey and there is a photo of its leader in the European Parliament.”

    Today, public prosecutors are investigating the heinous crimes committed by these coupists as well as those with links to FETO yet their families are been taken care of by the Turkish government as well the martyrs and the wounded. But contrary to reports that there was a massive purge against the enemies of Edorgan, the investigations are only limited to those who supported the FETO during or before the coup and last week alone, more than 3,000 were cleared and reinstated back to the public service.

    More on the failed Turkey coup in our subsequent editions.

    by Baboucarr Camara